Museum worker made £12k from online stamps fraud

Joseph McGuire worked at the National Museum of Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams
Joseph McGuire worked at the National Museum of Scotland. Picture: Toby Williams
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a MAILroom worker at the National Museum of Scotland ordered more than £14,000 worth of stamps before selling them on eBay and pocketing the cash.

Joseph McGuire, 46, was caught after the Royal Mail criminal intelligence team spotted the first-class stamps for sale on the auction website.

They discovered that the account being used to advertise them belonged to McGuire’s wife, and that the contact phone number was that of his department at the museum.

Bosses at the Chambers Street attraction confirmed that McGuire, who pleaded guilty to fraud at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, was sacked when the scam came to light in 2013.

Fiscal depute Aidan Higgins told Sheriff Fiona Reith QC: “There was clear evidence that the accused had been involved in the ordering of very large quantities of stamps from the Royal Mail to be delivered to the National Museum of Scotland, far in excess of the postage requirements of the National Museum.”

Search warrants were granted and a sheet of 100 first-class stamps was found in McGuire’s locker at the museum, along with invoices. When his home was searched, police recovered £11,625 in cash along with various Royal Mail packages and invoices. A total of 2769 first-class stamps, valued at £1661, were also recovered.

The fiscal said the accused had ordered several hundred stamps from the Royal Mail on a monthly basis, using a franking machine which authorised payment. The total value of the stamps sold on eBay was £12,797.

Defence solicitor Jonathan Campbell told the court that at the time of the offences, 100 first-class stamps cost £60 and McQuire was selling them for less.

Mr Campbell said: “He was enticing people to buy them because they were cheaper than if they bought them from the Royal Mail or a post office.

“Using the franking machine, he was able to pay the Royal Mail at the expense of the National Museum. The only organisation losing out was the National Museum.”

Mr Campbell admitted there was no satisfactory explanation or justification for why his client had embarked on the scheme.

But he said McGuire, along with some other employees, had been the subject of a disciplinary case as a result of “certain postings on social media about fellow employees and a member of the management team”. He had been given a final warning in January 2011.

Mr Campbell also said the money had not been used for a lavish lifestyle and McGuire “was almost relieved when the offence was discovered”.

He added that his client was now working as a cleaner and hoped the money found at his home would be returned to the museum. A National Museums Scotland spokesman said: “When this matter came to light he was suspended pending an investigation and was subsequently dismissed. We note the guilty plea made and will seek recovery of funds lost. We have since introduced new checks and procedures to ensure that this cannot be repeated.”

Sentence on McGuire, from the Pleasance, was deferred until next month.

newsen@edinburghnews.com